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Harrison says Senate should not rush Supreme Court confirmation as Graham pushes forward

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Election 2020 Senate Jamie Harrison (copy)

Democrat Jaime Harrison, who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaks to Democrats gathered at the Spratt Issues Conference on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Greenville. File/Meg Kinnard/AP

As U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham presses ahead with efforts to swiftly confirm President Donald Trump's new Supreme Court nominee, his Democratic challenger said Tuesday he believes the process should not be "rushed before the election."

In his first comments since Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the high court vacancy, Jaime Harrison emphasized the importance of following the constitutional process and vowed to "give every president's nominee fair and thorough consideration."

"Right now, I don’t think this lifetime appointment should be rushed before the election," Harrison said in a statement.

"This is not about what's fair for Democrats or fair for Republicans, it is what is right for the nation in a moment where we need our leaders the most," he said.

Harrison did not comment directly on whether he would vote for or against Barrett. His spokesman said he is waiting to further review her record during her confirmation hearings.

Instead of expediting Barrett's confirmation, Harrison said the Senate should be spending more time alleviating the burden of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Over 3,000 of our fellow South Carolinians have died from COVID, including my aunt, and the Senate hasn't even passed another relief bill," Harrison said. "That is what we need to be focusing on right now."

Graham responded that Harrison's answer is not sufficient, saying he "owes South Carolina voters a direct 'Yes' or 'No' " on whether he would vote to confirm Barrett, who is expected to deepen the high court's conservative majority.

"His current answer is one of the worst political dodges on record," Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. "If the past is any indication, there is no conceivable way he would support a Trump nominee."

Graham noted that Harrison opposed Trump's two previous nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

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"Jaime Harrison will be a reliable liberal vote. To believe otherwise is to not understand where Jaime Harrison is coming from," Graham said. "Mr. Harrison, we’re waiting for your answer."

Before Trump named his pick, Harrison took Graham to task during several television interviews about the incumbent's reversal on whether the Senate should fill a Supreme Court vacancy so close to an election.

In 2016 and again in 2018, Graham promised that Republicans would not move to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of Trump's term until after the election, following the precedent that Republicans set when they blocked President Barack Obama's last nominee from even receiving a hearing in his final year.

Graham encouraged people to "hold the tape" and use his own words against him if such a situation ever arose.

During a CNN interview the day after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Harrison expressed little surprise that Graham was changing his position.

"We have come to see that Lindsey Graham's word has not been very valuable over the past few years," Harrison said.

Polls over the last month have consistently shown the race between Graham and Harrison to be neck-and-neck as Harrison has blitzed the television airwaves after raising more money than any candidate in South Carolina history. 

Democratic outside groups have also gone up with ads recently highlighting Graham's shift on whether a Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed so close to an election and calling him a hypocrite.

Graham, who will be leading the confirmation hearings as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is hoping Republican enthusiasm about filling the vacancy with Barrett, who is well-regarded by conservative legal experts, will help lift him to a fourth term in office.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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